UK Children Do Better In Foster Care Than With Troubled Families


A joint study by the Rees Centre of the University of Oxford and the University of Bristol looked into student achievement for children in foster care settings, concluding that children in foster care do better at school compared to children who continue living with their troubled families and get social workers’ support.

The study also found that the duration and stability of the child’s foster care placement contribute to the student’s educational success.

For the study’s purposes, researchers examined the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) results of about 640,000 teenage students in the UK. They found that vulnerable children living in foster or kinship care did as better as 6 GCSE grades higher than children living with their parents and receiving social worker support, the BBC reports. The researchers highlighted that the more stable and long-term the foster care, the better the academic achievement of the student. They argue in their report:

“The earlier the young person enters foster or kinship care the better their progress, provided that they do not experience many short care periods interspersed with reunifications with their birth families or many placement and/or school changes.”

This type of setting offers the protection and sense of safety students need to focus on their education, the researchers say. Children who remain in the same foster care placement for more than one year could achieve a total of 5 higher GCSE grades compared to children switching between birth family and foster family or other settings.

The study, which was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, a UK educational charity, included interviews with 26 young people apart from the GCSE grade analysis. Compared to students that are not in foster care or receiving social work support at home, both foster care groups lag behind. The research also reveals that parameters such as days of absence, school moves and type of school contributed to how successful or not a child’s education was.

Reporting on the study’s results, Community Care said that when a child’s final placement is in foster or kinship care then their GCSE results are better compared to students in at-home care.

The education lead for the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, Ms. Debbie Barnes, said the findings will help the organization better understand and better serve children in need, the BBC reports. David Berridge, Professor of Child and Family Welfare at the University of Bristol, said about children in foster or kinship care:

“[Y]young people said they could only do well at school once they felt safe and secure, that they mattered to someone and that their birth families were also being supported,” Caroline Mortimer reporting for The Independent says.

For Josh Hillman, Acting Director and Director of Education at the Nuffield Foundation, the study provides a ‘clear agenda’ for anyone involved in care systems and education as to what steps to take next to improve the learning circumstances of children in need, reports.

Finally, the Children’s Minister Edward Timpson emphasized the value of education and family support in a student’s academic and personal success.

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